Most Criticism of Home Education is Smoke without Fire

What has been said?

On 21 January Tes (previously Times Educational Supplement) published an article entitled “Most criticism of home education is smoke without fire,” in which Randall Hardy, a home educator, set out to tackle the assumption that home education is more likely to “fail” children in some way than education provided by the state school system.

The article examines facts relating to the frequently voiced accusation that EHE is used as a cover for child abuse and radicalisation. It goes on to explore possible reasons why anxiety about EHE exists at both government and community level, given the lack of any evidence to sustain it, and provides a helpful explanation of the confusion caused by a conflation of the state’s oversight of education with its child welfare provision.

The article closes by moving the debate beyond the particulars of EHE to explain the dangers for schools, teachers and for wider society at the direction now being taken. The imposition of “British Values” on the curriculum – and the potential for that to be enforced as part of any registration and monitoring of EHE – is key, “moving the responsibility for each child’s education away from its parents and vesting it in the state”, resulting in a fundamental shift that “affects all parents and teachers too – no longer are they understood to be working ‘in loco parentis’ but ‘in loco civitatis’.”

Why does it matter?

Tes describes itself as “the foremost education news, analysis and opinion site for teachers, school leaders and other educators, delivered through a global family of news sites, blogs, apps, podcasts and the world’s longest-running education magazine.” To see a well-informed, balanced and positive article about EHE published by Tes is encouraging. It means that these clear, evidence-based arguments have escaped beyond the echo chambers of HE forums and been read by those who form opinions about EHE within the “world” of the education system.

It is also a thoughtful article, making clear the lack of evidence for the concerns currently being voiced about EHE but going further, by trying to help the reader engage with why this anxiety exists at government, institutional and popular level. Rather than resorting to an “us and them” mentality, pitching EHE families against a malevolent school system, the article aims to show that the pressures on schools and on EHE have a similar root and demonstrate why they are bad for our society as a whole.

As Hardy asserts: “Wise governments will protect future citizens from regimes that do not value civil liberties. Whenever there is a danger of such protection being lost, a minority usually find themselves standing up to protect the majority.”

What can I do?

Firstly, share the Tes article! Draw it to the attention of those who have the power and influence to shape opinion, such as your MP and Local Authority EHE team.

Also share it with those you know who tend towards the view that whilst you – their friend or family member – are of course fine, there are all these “others” who may be abusing or radicalising under the cover of HE. Use this article as a springboard to draw them into conversation and consideration of the wider issue of the state’s role in family life, and how this might affect them, even if they are not home educating.

You may also find this article helpful in rebutting points arising from Anne Longfield (Children’s Commissioner) report and the associated Dispatches programme “Skipping School – Britain’s Invisible Kids” (available until 6 March).